I want to look here at the 'coneheads' that created the worlds first civilizations, those of Sumeria and Elam, it is not generally known that the
group that founded what is often considered the worlds oldest city, Eridu, practised cranial deformation;
I'll be drawing on information primarily found in this series of articles relating to the Ubaid period;
Beyond the Ubaid
There is an almost seamless transition seen at Eridu between the Late Ubaid period and the rise of Sumerian culture, with earlier levels of the E-Abzu
Temple of Enki dating back to the 5th Millennium, simply becoming ever larger and more elaborate.
Actual photographs of such skulls are not as easy to come by as say for South America, due to age and states of preservation.
But the general method used in the Near East for the period was skull binding with bandages at infancy, rather than any usage of boards.
It is considered that the idealized form of the figurines directly relate to the cranial deformation practises of the people, that thus they represent
themselves, or an idealized version of self.
It was only certain groups that carried out the practise, that set them aside from others.
It must be considered though that as these groups are as represented on the figurines, and that such would have a sacred context, then those who
undertook cranial deformation were seen as in some way connected to the Divine, or the other-worldly.
The geographical extent of Ubaid related cultures was considerable, extending into Iran, Syria and Turkey
Whilst the Ubaid period is considered to focus on Southern Mesopotamia, from the 6th to the 5th Millenium Bc, the earlier and related Halaf period
involved Northern Mesopotamia.
Cranial deformation is seen to have been widespread in all the Ubaid related cultures over this period, but in tracing back its origins this appears
to be more centred on Iran, with examples dating back 11,000 years.
Pre-History of Iran...Artificial Cranial
At the settlement of Ganj Darra datable to the 9th-8th millennia BCE, from a total of 69 individuals (most of which were not complete), were recovered
14 skulls, all of which had been altered artificially through the use of bandages (Meiklejohn et al., p. 89). One of these crania is female and two
are male; three others are probably female and five more probably male; three are of undetermined sex (Meiklejohn et al., p. 91, Table 4). The nearby
8th-millennium BCE settlement of Teppa Ghenil revealed remains of one individual of undetermined sex whose skull had been artificially modified, again
using bandages (Meiklejohn et al., pp. 86-89; Hours et al., p. 138). From the broadly contemporary site of ʿAli Koš, at least three females of the
14 adult inhumations found beneath the houses displayed evidence of artificially modified skulls
The Iranian skull deformations are again found within the greater context of figurines showing similar features and representations on pottery;
In addition to figurines, further evidence can be gained from other depictions, such as representations of humans on pottery shreds, as recovered from
the Neolithic site of Tell Sabi Abyad (Tall Ṣabi Abyaż) in Syria and the Chalcolithic site Tell Madhur in Mesopotamia (Molleson and Campbell, p.
52, fig. 9.4). Some samples of Iranian pottery also display humans with an elongated or exaggerated head shape, such as on shreds recovered from the
Late Chalcolithic sites of Češma-ʿAli and Tall-e Bakun A (FIGURE 4). Whilst it is clear that in some cases the representations could demonstrate
either cranial modification or more temporary alterations of hairstyle or wearing of headgear, what is nevertheless evident is the exaggeration and
importance shown to the head, given prominence in certain portrayals during this particular period of Iranian prehistory.
If the practise then was of emulation and the establishment of a particular identity, with relationship to the sacred, it can be seen it's origins
would appear to trace back as far as the early Neolithic period, and that it went into effective decline at the end of the Ubaid period, and the rise
of Sumerian and Elamite civilization, through perhaps a transference of the cultic practises into the cults of the Temple precincts.
But it can properly be said that it's adherents gave rise to the First Civilizations, and it might also be considered that a similar pattern emerged
in South America and the rise of civilization there.
edit on 16-8-2013 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)